Temple cemented its standing as college basketball’s most bewildering team on Thursday night with a victory few saw coming
Just as it seemed the Owls had sunk out of NCAA tournament contention for good, they rose up and toppled Wichita State 81-79 in overtime.
Temple now boasts victories over Auburn, Wichita State and Clemson, each among the top 20 teams in the latest AP Top 25 poll. Throw in a road win at SMU and a neutral-court victory over South Carolina, and that’s a collection worthy of team bound for the NCAA tournament.
The problem is that Temple has piled up just as many head-scratching losses this season as it has quality wins.
In non-league play, the Owls dropped games against LaSalle and George Washington, two of the worst teams in an unusually weak Atlantic 10 this season. They’ve also suffered disappointing home losses in league play to Tulane and Memphis, neither of whom are KenPom top 150 teams at the moment.
Where that leaves Temple is 12-10 overall and 4-6 in the American Athletic Conference. The good news is the Owls will be favored in every remaining regular season game with the exception of their Feb. 15 visit to Wichita State and perhaps a home game against Houston three days later. The bad news is the Owls may have to win as many as seven of their final eight games to climb back into NCAA tournament contention.
Expecting that type of consistency from Temple seems foolish given how mercurial the Owls have been all season.
One night they’ll be confident and dynamic on offense. The next night they can’t sink a shot. One night they’ll play classic disciplined Fran Dunphy defense. The next night they’ll give up uncontested layups and open jumpers at will.
Never was Temple’s inconsistency more apparent than during back-to-back games against Cincinnati and UConn last week. The Bearcats held the Owls to a pathetic .59 points per possession in a 33-point victory. The Huskies surrendered an absurd 1.39 points per possession in a 28-point loss.
Thursday’s Wichita State game was somewhere in the middle. Shizz Alston scored a game-tying layup late in regulation and Obi Enechionyia hit the go-ahead free throws with 18.1 seconds left in overtime as Temple rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit and handed the 16th-ranked Shockers their third loss in five games.
Is this the start of a February surge from Temple? Or merely just the latest puzzling result in a season full of them?
There’s no way of knowing for sure with college basketball’s weirdest team.
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